Growing up to 5 meters in height, Brazilian red cloak (Megaskepasma erythrochlamys) is an evergreen semi-woody shrub that has large green leaves. The leaves are about 30 cm long, opposite, oval, and have pronounced venations while the showy inflorescences are spike-shaped and each about 20 cm tall.
The genus Megaskepasma is derived from Greek words ‘megas’ which means “big” and ‘skepasma’, referring to the brightly coloured bracts. The species name erythrochlamys means “cloaked in red”. A member of the Acanthaceae family, which also includes Fittonia, Ruellia, and Thunbergia, this species is native to the rainforests of Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.
The attractive ‘red flowers’ are actually red bracts, which give this plant its common name of “red cloaks”. The true flowers are white, tubular in shape, and surrounded or “cloaked” by the red bracts. While the bracts are not true flowers, they serve to attract pollinators like hummingbirds and their showy red colour stays long even after the true white flowers have wilted.
While this shrub can be planted in a container, it thrives as a landscaping plant when planted in the ground. It is a fast-growing and vigorous shrub that prefers well-drained soil.
While it is a versatile shrub perfect for hedges and screens, it is sensitive to the hot afternoon sun, and may suffer sun scorch if so exposed. Hence, the best location for this plant to thrive would be a place exposed to the morning sun but shaded from the afternoon sun.
Currently, the Brazilian red cloak is in full bloom so do check them out if you are in the Gardens. You can find them planted along the Dragonfly Lake boardwalk opposite Active Garden and by Kingfisher Lake, near the raintree planted by the late Lee Kuan Yew.
Written by: Arthur Voo, Senior Research Executive (Research and Horticulture)
Arthur has been working closely with plants for more than 10 years, whether in a park, nature reserve or glasshouse. These days, if he isn’t taking care of plants in the glasshouses, he likes to spend his time hiking and looking for interesting plants in the wild.